money-money-moneyThe November issue of Money Magazine profiles the 50 “Best Jobs” in America. What intrigued me most was that at the top of their list was “Systems Engineer”.

I think profiling best jobs is a different beast than stack-ranking the best places to live. For the latter, I think people’s criteria are pretty consistent even if differing in degrees. For example, most people would agree that low crime-rates, low unemployment rates and clean air are important factors in assessing a place to live.

However, one’s occupation I think is an entirely different matter. I know of an acquaintance that enjoys their job as a mortician whereas I would hardly find that a desirable career path. Skills sets also differ and would impact how successful one would be in a given field.

Setting these hesitations aside, Money magazine, staying true to the theme of its magazine, weighed financial remuneration high in its ranking process.

They started with 7,000 jobs listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and eliminated jobs with median pay less than $65,000 (for those with experience) and fewer than 10,000 positions. The results led to 260 jobs. These were then shortlisted based on how well they performed in the latest recession resulting in 100 jobs. It is then that other factors grouped into flexibility, benefit to society, satisfaction and stress are weighed using data from and as well as interviews with industry experts.

Here are the top three and my thoughts on each one.

  • No. 1: Systems Engineer—Being in the technology field, I know and work with many systems engineers. I would agree with Money’s rating of flexibility and satisfaction being “A” as almost all of the systems engineers love their job and like the idea of not being closed into a cubicle all day. I had to smile at the “C” rating for “benefit to society” as I think of how many times I sat in on meeting where a good systems engineer have been integral to advising technology selection which impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the company’s operations.
  • No. 2: Physician Assistant—This is a growing new profession which is coined “MD lite”. Physician Assistants do not require as much training as full fledged primary-care physicians and are able to perform routine medical care. With growing health care costs and rising demands as the population ages and chronic diseases are on the rise (I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food’), demand in this area will only continue to rise. I do hope equally growing is a greater awareness of eating healthy and exercising to stave off our growing dependence on the health care industry.
  • No. 3: College Professor—Thinking back to my teachers, I would say that college professors were very influential in my growth and development. However, even more so were my high school and grade school teachers. However, I think the latter professions were quickly ruled out after Money Magazine took a quick look at the pay scale of these professions. College professors, which I could believe, have great scheduling flexibility and as this recession has shown, when there is an economic downturn, people go back to school.

Other jobs that ranked high on this list that I am well familiar with are #10 Sales Director, #12 Software Developer, #16 Software Product Manager, and #26 Marketing Manager.

For those that get Money Magazine, the article is on page 88 of the November 2009 issue.

Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.